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... class but on the number of people likely to enjoy it. It is for university students at least
on 7 March 2015
Giving four stars is not a reflection of the quality of the book which is first class but on the number of people likely to enjoy it. It is for university students at least.
The question it deals with is not new; it is at least 2 hundred years old, namely the origin of the Indo-European languages. As the book says, about half the people of the world speak an Indo-European language. Nor are the conclusions of the book different from the commonly-held view that they originated in the steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas. The author combines linguistic and archaeological studies. He does so with great thoroughness, drawing on Russian and Ukrainian studies now available to those able to read Russian and there are many of these. The problem for the non-expert is that there a too many of these. What is suitable for a university student is less suitable for the general reader, and I found myself skipping.
As is common nowadays, the author dismisses the theory from Rassenkampf (racial wars) of Social Darwinism. Rather, Indo-European became regarded as a prestige language, the language of high status families. Greek, Latin, and Arabic spread in a similar manner, as indeed did English, French and Spanish. Prestige no doubt followed success in battle, but did not involve wiping out populations. The use of the horse for riding and the composite bow, also helped.
This exhaustive work sums up recent scholarship on the subject. It does not explain the origin of the local dialect of the steppes which was to prove so influential.